Monday, September 14, 2015

Hot-Sour Beef Soup with Pak Chee Farang

     Sawtooth Herb!
     The hot-sour flavor of this soup has a nice balance.  Pak Chee Farang (Sawtooth Herb) has a strong cilantro flavor.  Pak Chee Farang is traditionally is used to flavor beef recipes in Thailand and Southeast Asia.  Today's soup is healthy and it offers some medicinal qualities, because galangal, turmeric and wood ear mushrooms are on the list of ingredients.  
     When cooking the traditional food of foreign countries it is easy get hung up on "one size fits all" cooking rules.  For example, one chef stated that all Thai is started by boiling coconut milk.  Another chef stated there is no stir fry cooking in Thailand.  One size fits all statements like these are misleading, because they are half truths.  
     The reality is that Thailand is a big country and there is a wide variety of cooking techniques used by local chefs.  No stir fry in Thailand?  One of the best quail recipes I know was provided by a good cook from farm country Issan, Thailand and it just happens to be a stir fry recipe.  Traditional Thai stir fry recipes involve boiling coconut milk till it becomes coconut oil, then the stir frying begins.  In modern times, cooks just open a jar of pre-made coconut oil.  Voila!    
     The regions of Thailand that border Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia share the cooking styles of those neighboring countries.  Yunnan Provence Chinese cuisine shares Northern Thailand cooking influences and vice versa.  China has thousands of years of trade history with all their neighboring countries, so Chinese influence can be found in all Asian cuisines.
     This brings up the soy sauce topic.  Soy sauce is not used in most traditional Thai recipes, but in Northern Thailand the Chinese influences abound and soy sauce is added to some local recipes.  In modern times, just about anything goes and chefs use whatever ingredients they prefer when creating new recipes. 
     When cooking traditional recipes it pays to play by the traditional rules.  When designing food to create interest in certain ingredients, like Pak Chee Farang, bending traditional cooking rules can broaden the spectrum of appeal.  Today's recipe combines ingredients from several Asian cuisines. 

     Hot Sour Beef Soup with Pak Chee Farang Recipe:  
     This recipe yield 1 large portion of soup that can be shared by 2 guests!  
     Prepare all the ingredients ahead of time, because this soup has a short, quick cooking time.  The vegetables all should be cooked al dente.  Al dente loosely translates to slightly crisp to the bite!  
     Step 1:  Soak 4 or 5 dried wood ear mushrooms in water overnight in a refrigerator.  (Enough for 1/4 cup of thin sliced wood ear mushroom strips.)
     Cut the mushrooms into thin strips.
     Step 2:  Place a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil.
     Add about 2 1/2 ounces of thin sliced lean beef.
     Sauté till the beef is lightly browned. 
     Step 3:  Add 3 1/4 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 stalk of lemon grass that is tied in a knot.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Gently boil the broth for 10 minutes, so the lemongrass flavor infuses.  
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced fresh galangal.  (Galangal is Thai Blue Ginger.)
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 cup of the reserved sliced wood ear mushroom strips. 
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce. 
     Add white pepper and sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Korean style Coarse Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste (Sambal).  (Or substitute 1 chopped small Thai Chile Pepper. 
     Add 1 pinch of Madras Yellow Curry Powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. 
     Step 5:  Mix a little bit of cornstarch and cold water together to form a slurry.  (About 2 tablespoons.)
     Add just enough of the cornstarch and water slurry while stirring to thicken the soup to a very thin consistency.  
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of thick sliced small portobello field mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 1/2 cup of sliced white stalks of bok choy.
     Add 4 baby bok choy that are cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced green bell pepper strips.
     Add 1/4 cup of julienne sliced onion.     
     Add a few thin sliced carrot strips for color.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 6 to 8 whole pak chee farang leaves.  (sawtooth herb)
     Step 7:  Gently boil for one minute. 
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice. 
     Simmer the soup for 2 to 3 minutes.
     Step 8:  Ladle the soup into a bowl.  
     Place some pak chee farang leaves against the rim of the soup bowl as a garnish.  
     Float 1 thin slice of lime on the soup.  

     The hot sour soup flavor combines with the beef and pak chee farang in a nice way!  

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